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Friday, December 22, 2006

Appreciating Pittsburgh (and Arrol Gellner)

I was blown away when I read an opinion piece in last weeks P-G by an architect named Arrol Gellner. Mr. Gellner is from San Franciso, and he wrote an article for a real estate industry news paper that very clearly and concisely summed up what Proud Pittsburgh is all about.
Please take the time to read his article at the P-G website.

I have included some of the article below, but you will definitely want to read the whole article:

A while back I was sitting in a cafe near a couple of freshly minted techie types. I happened to overhear -- OK, after a while I strained to overhear -- as one explained to the other how he'd loathed his Pennsylvania hometown for its stodgy work ethic, its middle-American attitudes and so on. He summed up by breezily remarking, "Another generation of steelworkers would have to die before I'd go back to Pittsburgh."

This last comment left me wondering a) whether he had some sort of reasoning disability, or b) whether our schools have simply quit teaching any history about who or what built this nation. For a purportedly educated person to dismiss one of America's historically pivotal cities because there were too many steelworkers still hanging around seems the height of both ignorance and unkindness. Those awful Pittsburgh steelworkers! It was nice of them to help make us the world's industrial power, but now they should just hurry up and die so my friends and I can sip lattes by the river!

I don't think that it is a coincidence that Mr. Gellner and I share the same profession and attitude towards Pittburgh's place in history. As architects, we have great respect and admiration for the people who have built our modern world.

What I do find coincidental, is that both Mr. Gellner and I both were inspired to action, after overhearing someone's misguided opinion of Pittsburgh.

I was at a Penguins game and was walking out of the Civic Arena after the Pens blew away the New York Rangers. Penguins fans ( not me ) were taunting a lonely New York fan about the game. After a couple of minutes, the New Yorker couldn't take it anymore, and said to the crowd -

" You may have won the game, but I get to go back to Manhattan and you are all stuck here in Pittsburgh."

I snapped back-

" Your right buddy, we're NOT Manhattan....we just built it!"

Since then, I have been obsessed with telling everyone I meet that Pittsburgh's achievements have made life as they know it possible.

I have emailed Mr. Gellner to thank him for his article, and for recognizing that the generations of steel workers that were around long before Pittsburgh transformed itself into a jewel will never really die.


Anonymous susan said...

"too many steelworkers still hanging around"

Well then, they should use a boat to cross the rivers, so they don't have to use the bridges that those steelworkers built.

My dad was an ironworker, and worked on many of the bridges and buildings of Pittsburgh.

I have since moved away, but Pgh will always be 'home'.


5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss you Pittsburgh! We need a national reunion! I am in Charlotte, but am looking to come home! HOME! I have never encountered a prouder city! These new generic places dont hold a candle to the spirit an work ethic of my Pittsburgh and gone.

2:59 AM  
Anonymous Darlene said...

I'm from Pittsburgh also, living in California, but my husband and I make frequent trips to "the Burgh" to visit our families.

While it's true Homestead has been transformed by the Waterfront developers, they evidently ran out of money.

If anyone goes up river and sees Duquesne, McKeesport, Clairton and Glassport, just a few of the poverty striken communities that grew old and welfare-ridden as a result of the exit of U.S. Steel, they will understand completely the comments of the fresh minted techies that Mr. Gellner refers to at the beginning his article.

12:07 AM  
Blogger Proud Pittsburgh said...


Thanks for your comments and for visiting the website. Although I sometimes disagree with people who respond to my website, I truly value their opinions.

That being said, I strongly disagree with your comment that if anyone visited the mon-valley, that:
"they will understand completely the comments of the fresh minted techies that Mr. Gellner refers to at the beginning his article."

First - the Californian techies did not say anything about the physical condition of the Mon Valley, or Homestead for that matter. What they said was "Another generation of steelworkers would have to die before I'd go back to Pittsburgh."

What these people were saying is that no matter what physical improvements were made to the region, they would not come back until a generation of steelworkers died off.

I find this opinion to be the depth of shallowness and ignorance.

The generation that fought in World War II has been called the "greatest generation". I would add that the ranks of the "greatest generation" could easily be expanded to include the hardworking people that made the steel, glass and aluminum that helped the soldiers win WWII.
(During the war, Pittsburgh produced more steel for tanks, armaments, ships etc. than all of the allied contries...COMBINED. When you see photos of the
D-Day landing at Normandy, please know that you are looking at men using helmets, armor, armaments made of Pittsburgh steel and landing in ships built in Pittsburgh. Simply put, WWII could not have been won without the efforts of the generation of steelworkers that these techies despise.)

Second - to say that the deterioration of the Mon Valley that followed the end of big steel is a valid reason for not returning to Pittsburgh is a little disingenuous. There are a number of very legitimate reasons that people leave Pittsburgh and don't want to return ( lack of jobs, taxes, current political structure, weather,etc. ), but I must really stretch to see how the condition of the Mon Valley is one of them.
Using this logic, the conditions in some of the very poor neighborhoods in Oakland or Los Angeles are reasons not to live in those cities. Every city on the planet has it's problems and Pittsburgh is no exception, but I think that the techies need to consider the explosion of the South Side entertainment district, or the new developments on the North Shore and Downtown before they write off Pittsburgh as a decaying steel town.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AMEN! The Wall Street Journal frequently has wonderful things to say about Pittsburgh. It has been dubbed "Robo-burgh", named most liveable, among the top ten cleanest cities in the WORLD, and Kiplinger named it one of the top ten cities of the future! The last time I was home (a month ago) I see where a building boom is occurring. I am very excited for Pittsburgh and when I move back at the beginning of 2008, I intend on being very active in my community, and volunteer to promote the region. There is no place like it!

7:31 PM  

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